Dawson City, Yukon Friday, December 13, 1996

Merry Christmas from the staff of the Klondike Sun!

Feature Stories

Peace on Earth
Editorial: Christmas is a Time of...
A Gold Rush Christmas: Stories from the Past
Klondyke Centennial Society News
Love those Winter Drives to Whitehorse
Some Favourite Things
Christmas in the Hart--a memoir
A Baby Boy at Christmas... a family tradition

The Sun on the Net tends to be a selection of our top "news" stories. Our Christmas edition this year had very little "hard" news in it, so this issue we present a selection of poems, memoirs and Christmas thoughts, along with some of the columns that don't usually get highlighted here. We're taking a break from our schedule here. If you have anything to send us, please do so by January 17. See you again after January 24.

Dan Davidson, Editor

Peace on Earth

by Dan Davidson

We are ticking off the days.
We are talking of the season.
We are wrapping up our hopes and dreams
in search of Christmas mirth.

Do we ever stop to wonder,
in the midst of all this madness,
of the reason for this season
and the Joy that gave it birth?

While it may seem quite presumptuous
to a world which thinks so little
of that Baby born so long ago,
to those who scorn His worth,

take the time, for just a moment,
stop to have a look around you;
give some thought to other places;
make a prayer for peace on earth.


Editorial: Christmas is a Time of...

by Palma Berger

JOY! That is the word that defines the Christmas Season.

After a year of a routine of work and ups and downs in our personal lives, and the news media telling of the weird and wicked things happening in the world, and we wonder why our leaders cannot solve these problems, and we wonder if they really want to? We are fortunate to always have the certainty of the joy of Christmas.

The joy is not of witnessing grandeur of events. It is more from within.

This period in the routine of our year is a tradition of providing joy, of good fellowship and friendships.

There is the famous story of World War I where the two opposing armies called a halt to the firing for Christmas Day. Then they celebrated Christmas together with carol singing, sharing whatever food they had and talk of family; just to share again the joy of being a human being. Next day was to resume the brutal war, but for one day the soldiers were to remember there was a time of joy.

Years ago friends and I left Australia and took up residence in London, England. As the Christmas season drew near we became quite dispirited.The thought of not being able to spend Christmas Day out of the house with family was depressing. Certainly the stores and streets were wonderfully decorated, but no shop window had six white Boomers pulling Santa's sleigh. But as our English friends guided us into putting up a tree and decorating the living room and enjoying visiting indoors, we began to feel good again. It was not the decorations. It was that people were caring enough to spend time with us. We began to feel a flood of warm feeling again.

The following year I was teaching at a Jewish school. Teaching children who so wanted to learn was a joy in itself; but what moved me was that these boys with their little caps and the girls of my class all presented me with Christmas cards that year. The cards did not have a religious theme but wished me JOY in the form of happy Santas, reindeer and bright candles etc. Such is the tradition of Christmas.

Since those times I have learnt that the joy of the Christmas season is shared whether you spend Christmas Day indoors looking out at snow, struggling to converse with your in-laws in your limited German in Vienna, or outdoors under sunshine and playing cricket on green grass.

May you all enjoy the warmth of Open Houses, friends and family visiting and the cheer of so may bright lights.

We at the Sun wish you all Good Health, Good Fellowship, Good Friends and Safe Times.


A Gold Rush Christmas: Stories from the Past

The Klondike Nugget was Dawson's first newspaper. Here, from last year's history The Klondike's "Dear Little Nugget" (MacDonald and O'Keefe, Horstal and Schubert, publishers) is this collection of items from the Christmas pages of its first year.

Christmas 1898

The Episcopal Church was home to some 40 Dawson youngsters at Christmas. The party was simple and they were entertained by gramophone music and a magic lantern show. The ladies of the church laid on the event helped by the generosity of the city merchants.

The Klondike Nugget
December, 1898

The Christmas Tree

The Christmas tree which stood in the corner of the church was beautifully decorated with strings of popcorn, sacks of candies and other ornaments suitable for the occasion, and was beautifully illuminated with a number of wax candles. There was a present on the tree for every child and each one received in remembrance a sack of candies.

The Klondike Nugget
December, 1898

Merry Christmas

The Nugget extends to all its leaders and friends in the city and on the creeks the wish for a happy and joyous Christmas. With most of us there will be a great many of the customary features lacking in the celebrations this year. Nevertheless, we can take pleasure in celebrating the joys of former years and look forward to similar occasions in the future when again old ties and friendships will be renewed.

Yet the Christmas season even on the Klondike will be filled with pleasurable events and if our advice is taken we are of the opinion that the recurrence of our greatest holiday in this year of our Lord, 1898, will be an occasion long to be remembered. The best we can wish for our friends is a Merry Christmas, a prosperous season and a handsome clean-up in the spring.


Klondyke Centennial Society News

Christmas Greetings to one & all!

We have been busy at the Klondyke Centennial Society planning for the Centennial Ball, attending the Christmas Bazaar, and working on our ongoing projects.

If you are planning to attend the ball, you should reserve your tickets now as seating is limited and tickets will not be available at the door. Ticket price is $60.00 per person and includes dinner, dancing and free admission to Casino Night on Friday, February 14. The ball will be held at Diamond Tooth Gerties on February 15. Doors open at 6:00 p.m. Call Kathy at 993-1996 to reserve your tickets!

Christmas Tree Raffle

The draw for the fully decorated Christmas tree was held at the Christmas Bazaar on November 23 and was won by Robyn Buyck. Congratulations Robyn!

Thank you to Maximilians, Arctic Drugs, the Dawson City General Store, the Downtown Hotel and the Monte Carlo for assisting us with the sale of the tickets. The following businesses/individuals donated items for the tree: Thank you for your generous donations to Dawson Hardware, the Monte Carlo, the Gold Poke, Maximillains and Vi Campbell. Invaluable assistance was also provided by John & Madeleine Gould and Peggy & Vinnie Amendola. Thanks for your help at the bazaar.

A total of $355.00 was donated to the Christmas Tree Association as a result of this raffle.

Dawson City Nuggets

The Dawson City Oldtimers are working hard on planning and organizing their upcoming trip to Ottawa to reenact the Stanley Cup Challenge game of 1905. Watch for travel packages if you want to join our boys on this exciting adventure.

Call Pat Hogan at 993-6337 or the Klondyke Centennial Society at 993-1996 for details.

"Ton of Gold" Reenactment

Travel brochures are now available for those of you who want to be a "Klondyke Millionaire" and join the cruise on board the "Spirit of '98" to reenact the arrival of the S.S. Portland in Seattle, Washington on July 17, 1897 carrying sixty-eight "Klondike Miners" with $700,000 worth of gold. The reenactment will begin in Dawson on July 6th, 1997. Festivities and events have been planned along the route in Dawson City, Whitehorse, Carcross, Skagway, and Seattle, Washington.

The "Spirit of '98" will depart Skagway on July 13 and is scheduled to arrive in Seattle on July 19. You will travel through some of the most breath-taking scenery in Canada & the U.S. including Haines, Sitka, Tracy Arm, Misty Fjords & Ketchikan, Canada's Inside Passage and Desolation Sound.

Drop by the Centennial Center if you want to find out more about this project.


Love those Winter Drives to Whitehorse

Reprinted from The Gold Hustlers

If you think you've ever had a tough drive from Dawson to the big city, take a peek at this December 1912 odyssey. This account, from Lewis Green's book The Gold Hustlers, is largely composed of quotations from the Whitehorse Star (Dec.27, 1912) and the Dawson News (Jan 2, 1913).

Joe and Mrs. Boyle left Dawson in mid-December 1912 in an attempt to drive through to Whitehorse in their 20 hp Flanders car, part of a publicized attempt to travel from Dawson to London in eighteen days. Poor road conditions and a 1,500 pound load in the car forced them to switch to a White Pass stage for the last portion of the trip to Whitehorse. A few days later their attempt was upstaged by the arrival in Whitehorse of Commissioner Black and C.A. Thomas of Yukon Gold in the latter's 60 hp Locomobile driven by chauffeur George Potter. Running time from Dawson was 351/2 hours. "Tires were worn down to the canvas and nearly everything loose that was not riveted" but after repairs they started on the return trip. The car, by now a "locoed-mobile," had to be abandoned just north of the Pelly River, and the travellers arrived in Dawson by stage on New Year's Eve.

Commissioner Black described the downfall of the car as a "simple accident to the machinery, one that might have happened on a city boulevard. An insignificant looking but most important little part of the carburetor called the float....sprung a leak. It had leaked when in use in Dawson last summer and had been repaired temporarily with solder instead of being replaced....On the return trip the solder worked loose...We patched it up on the road with candle wax which was not very satisfactory. While we had the car in the barn at Scroggie Creek we undertook to repair it by heating the solder unfortunately greatly increasing the aperture, putting the machine entirely out of business..."

You'll have to agree that such a journey is far beyond anything most of us have ever had to endure.


Some Favourite Things

Submitted by Kathryn Cameron Boivin

Sunrise painted orange on a cold northern sky
Reflected on a river with ice flowing by,
Black silhouettes of the trees in detail,
Silence and morning and new light so pale.
Coming inside to the warm smell of bread,
The wild confusion of a patchwork clothed bed,
A clarinet playing through the woods in the fall,
Laughter and moonlight and a raven's rough call.
Black cats purring by the wood stove at night,
Candlelight dinners and moose cooked up right,
The clear sound of music ringing all through our home,
French bread and chocolates and writing alone.
C.B.C. mornings with news of the north,
Fresh, home brewed yoghurt and songs bursting forth,
Out on the tundra in the fall of the year,
Boat rides and sunshine and having no fear.
Skating on pond ice with light snowflakes falling,
Warm woollen sweaters and chickadees calling,
Wilderness winters and clothing home made,
Rag rugs and wildflowers and jeans as they fade.
Picking wildberries in a summer of green
Climbing a mountain by a loud run-off stream,
Walking on soft moss through tall shady trees,
Cook stoves, and camping and bird watching sprees.
Dog teams on rivers and moose standing still,
The brilliance of autumn on a cottonwood hill,
Tea shared in friendship and eyes shining bright,
Campfires and oranges and owls in the night.


Christmas in the Hart--a memoir

Submitted by Joanne Bell-Fraughton

December 22. From my knees down, this cabin is below freezing; the outside temperature is about -50F.. I'm visiting friends we've invited onto our trapline this winter, twenty-five miles down river from our main cabin. My husband, Wayne, has skidooed to the Dempster, then town, over one hundred miles away, across two treeless mountain passes. He's bringing Christmas supplies and mail. He's also late. I know the cold has probably delayed him but still I'm trying not to think of wind and -50 and no timber for a campfire.

There are two cabins down here, an old one we've loaned our friends, built by a trapper, Frank Rae, in the first half of the century, and this one that we built, a hundred yards off through the spruce woods. As we haven't been here for a couple of years, the walls badly need chinking.

"Cold, " says Elizabeth, our one year old, holding her mittened hands to the stove. Most of her stands below the thawing point of my knees. Even in the cabin's dismal light, I can see my daughter is grubby. Her bathtub is on the stove and if I can only raise the floor temperature she'll play in there for hours.

Kindling, I think. I fill the barrel stove with small, chipped wood. The stove sides thump cherry-red and I hear the snap of sparks up the pipe. I wrestle off the tub, undress Elizabeth who tries to run off, and toss in rubber ducky, a spoon, a cup and bowl.

I lift Elizabeth. She stops fighting abruptly, points at the roof over the stove. "Hot," she remarks. At the same moment something hisses past my cheek. How odd, I think, the roof poles are red. "Hot," says Elizabeth again, pointing to the coals smouldering at my feet.

It is -50 and I have a naked baby in a burning cabin. I grab the sleeping bag off the bed and shove her into it. I grab another bag and wrap the first wriggling bundle in it. I open the door and the cold air steams in like a cloud. I deposit my bundle of child and bags onto the snowdrift banking the cabin. Then I shrug into my own parka, fetch down the shotgun from its spikes and run outside.

"I hope they're home," I tell my screeching daughter in the snowbank. I jam the shotgun tight against my shoulder, take a deep breath and fire, once, twice and again. If my friends hear the shots, I'm hoping, they'll come over to check. I turn. My neighbour is standing just behind me, beard and eyelashes thick with frost.

"A fire," I explain. And we put it out. For hours afterwards, I poke the broom up at the moss between the roof poles, checking for smouldering hot spots that might later erupt.

That night, I lie in bed and listen to a wolf howl down river on the river ice. I bring in my dog, Homer, and lie back down. Every little while I get up to check on the roof above the stove. It's cold enough inside to see my breath but I'm a tad nervous about kicking open the stove draft.

The wolf howls again, nearer this time. I walk outside. A full moon is sailing, shiny as a new dime, in a black sky over Waugh Creek ridge. Moonlight shadows the river, the bordering forest and peaks rising beyond as far as I can see.

This cabin is at the confluence of the West Hart River, Rae Creek (the middle Hart), the East Hart and Waugh Creek, which was the traditional route over to the Peel River and on to Fort McPherson. In effect, there are four mountain rivers flowing together within four miles here. From outside this cabin door on the moonlit river bank, I can see up them all.

The wolf howls again, a low cry rising up the scale. Curtains of aurora fold and unfold, accordion-like, in the black sky over the castellations of Waugh Creek ridge.

Cold, I go back to bed. Moonlight bathes the board floor. Two days till Christmas, I think, and Wayne's not back. He must be holed up somewhere waiting out the cold. What if he's not back? I've got no supplies at this cabin to either bake or make presents. I've got five year old flour, four cups of sugar, barley, beans and oats. A baggy of dried apples and rosehips. Our friends, who helicoptered their winter supplies in, don't have a surplus to donate.

Elizabeth, in a make-shift crib at the foot of my bed, coughs, then throws up. For a moment, I lie there, unwilling to believe it. She throws up again. She doesn't cry. I grab her. She's lying on her back, not moving. I toss her over my knees and thump her. She coughs, then cries.

The wolf howls again, its cries echoing back from the bluffs beyond the river ice.

It's morning, December 23. The neighbours come to the door. -38, they announce cheerfully. Wayne will come today, for sure.

Ribs of clouds have drifted over the sky. I dress Elizabeth who lies docilely on her back scanning the roof for flames. She seems perfectly healthy. I wrap her in bags on a sled and we stroll down to see the wolf tracks. My neighbours heard nothing. The tracks, of one large, lone wolf, come to within one hundred feet of my cabin, then meander off into the forest.

The full moon is pale and high in the bleached, mid-winter sky.

Later, I patch the roof as best I can. I bathe Elizabeth while she stands on the table, up in the temperate zone. I boil our soiled clothes.

I listen. Tomorrow is Christmas Eve. I wanted to get a tree, to decorate it as a family. Amidst my disappointment now, is worry, close to panic. The radio reception has been out for days, due to unusually heavy northern lights. There's no way of getting a message in or out. If he's not back, I'll get the tree myself, I think. He'll see it when he gets back. If, I think, he gets back.

That night, I spread out my supplies on the table. If Wayne arrives or not, I resolve, I'm still going to have Christmas. I rehydrate leathery bits of apple and rosehips in boiling water, spiced with cinnamon borrowed from my neighbours. I mix oats and a precious cup of sugar and fat rendered this fall from a caribou.

I plunk my daughter--not burned or frozen naked in the snow drift or choked on vomit--on a chair drawn up to the table. She howls. Elizabeth loves to howl. "Whooo," she sings.

Let's sing carols," I suggest. And we do. I give her a pile of raw cookies and show her how to stick her thumb in them for the apple/rosehip mix. It's a perfect one year old job, making holes in something, and as we work I sing to her all the carols I remember from my own childhood.

"It came upon the midnight clear, that glorious song of old," I sing to Elizabeth's accompaniment of howls.

I think of standing on the bank before the cabin last night with the full moon risen over the ridge and the enormous curtains of light, particles of energy carried from the sun itself. I think of the wolf howling, each note rising distinctly in the -50 air and my baby breathing softly in her sleep.

I sing louder--"the world in solemn stillness lay, to hear the angels sing". Elizabeth claps her dough-coated hands and howls along, over all the noise I don't hear Wayne's skidoo until it pulls up in front of the door.

"Dad. Vroom," says my daughter, as a blast of cold air sweeps in. Elizabeth crashes off her chair and races over to him and he tosses her up in the air and she laughs and laughs.

Wayne gestures out the open door. "It's all here," he says, "even a caribou for Christmas dinner." His eyelashes, hair and beard are white with frost.

"Dad. Vroom. No," says Elizabeth pointing out the door and shaking her head. It's her first sentence.

Later that night, when Elizabeth's asleep, we unload boxes and boxes of gifts. "Everyone in town gave me something for Elizabeth," Wayne says. "Every store I went in, they gave me something to bring back for her."

Christmas afternoon the neighbours come over. There's a tree in the corner and a picture of Santa tacked to the log wall. The temperature has risen to -15 and there are frozen mandarin oranges, fruit cake, chocolate Santas, nuts, Belgium chocolates, toys and mail. I haven't had mail since summer. I slip Homer the leathery apple/rosehip cookies.

That night, I stand out on the river bank after everyone's asleep. The lights are out, waves of light, then spears flung across the dark sky. The moon, when it floats free of the ridge, is waning. Soon we'll be back in our main cabin. The wolf is long gone and there aren't humans apart from us for many days' travel.

I watch the moonlit valleys opening up from all four compass directions. I sing "Silent Night" softly to the land and the river ice. Homer, chained to a tree, grunts, shifts in his sleep, and sticks his head back under his tail.

"Merry Christmas," I shout at him. And go back in.


A Baby Boy at Christmas... a family tradition

Submitted by Helen Winton

It was winter, early evening, and all of my family but my father was gathered in the living room. My mother was sitting in one of the grey brocade armchairs knitting something. I didn't know what it was nor did I care as my sweater had been recently completed, so I knew it couldn't be for me.

"I have something to tell you'" she said as she abandoned the knitting for a moment. This was unusual. In our noisy household, such a formal way of speaking was neither normal nor necessary. "What could it be?". I wondered. An upcoming trip to the City? A visit from our favourite aunt? An opportunity to spout forth our Christmas lists? None of those seemed quite right.

"We're going to have a new baby for Christmas this year", she said softly and I suddenly realized that it was tiny baby booties that she was knitting. My three sisters and I looked at one another and smiled. At the ages of six, eight, ten and twelve, the thought of a real live baby to play with was better than any Christmas doll we might have been dreaming of. Glenn, my sixteen year old brother, looking visibly distraught, turned on his heels and left the room. He was not impressed. Didn't my mother and father know any better than to inflict this upon him? What if it were another girl?

* * * * *

Well, dear reader, you know that Glenn need not have worried.

Then about a couple of decades later, Helen's daughter Sarah, had this story among the stories on the kids' page of the Dec. 1989 Klondike Sun.

Sarah's story...

I remember the Christmas of 1987 because my Baby brother was born. He is 2 years old now. My birthday is January 1. My brother's birthday is on the 6th of January. He was my Christmas present and a birthday present too.

by Sarah Winton
Gr. 4 Robert S.S.


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